How Placement Prepped me for Final Year

Last year I spent 12 months working at Randox Laboratories, Crumlin. I never gave much thought into why I was applying for placement in 2nd year; I just thought of it as something we had to do and understood that it would be beneficial when it came to seeking graduate jobs, as I’d have some experience to show for. But its only when I began the daunting journey of final year, that I realised just how much placement year has benefited me.

These are 5 practical things placement year has taught me:


1. Keep a diary

Before placement, the only diary I had ever faithfully kept was my ‘Little Mermaid’ one aged 8 – to write about my favourite/least favourite family member that day, who I fancied, or how I got on at my Irish dancing competition that weekend. When I got my first proper A4 business diary when I started in Randox, I wondered how I could ever really need or fill it. But as time passed, the diary became as important as the computer I did my work on. Filled with to-do lists, payday dates, meeting times, and reminders; I used it every day and would have been lost without it.

Emma 9

Now, I still keep a diary – although it’s a personal one with much less content, it’s just as important and keeps me right in terms of classes, meetings, appointments; you name it. Being organised is important in final year and this is one way to ensure you are!


2. Check your emails

Before placement, emails definitely were not my thing; with both my university and personal unread inboxes exceeding the hundreds. If someone needed me they could just Whatsapp or Facebook me – right? Wrong. It took me about 2 days of placement to realise that email is everything in the office. (Especially if you’re in Crumlin where there is no signal and it’s the only form of contact… Even lunchtime had to be arranged via email.) Everything is arranged by email, and failure to check emails in work could have resulted in missing a meeting that had been pushed forward or missing a last-minute task that needed to be completed urgently.

Emma 10

The same applies to Uni now; forgetting to check university emails can mean missing events, job meetings or just general updates (#OpheliaClosure), so I try to stay on top of them.


3. Coffee is your friend

Starting work at 8:40 each day and finishing at 5.20 took some time getting used to for a second year used to having class 3 times a week for a few hours. Coffee definitely helped with this, and I rarely sat at my desk without an americano at my side. This habit, whilst not the healthiest, has stayed with me and I rarely go a morning without. It definitely helps for those late-night library sessions!

Emma 11

4. Time is precious

Working full time makes you realise how precious time is – a simple doctor or dentist appointment requires planning and notice. Gone were the days where I could stroll into town at my leisure for a mid-week appointment and have a browse in the shops after! I think the reduction in time you have to yourself whilst working 9 to 5 in the ‘real world’ for a year ultimately helps you organise your time better in final year. Your weekend only part-time job in final year becomes a breeze in comparison and still leaves you with adamant time to socialise study.


5. Wake up early

Getting up before 7 every morning was not my most favoured part of placement, not going to lie… But it got me into a good routine, and even on days off I found myself waking up early because it’s what I was used to. This is in stark contrast to second year Emma, whose idea of early was 11AM… I find that waking up early puts you in a better mood for the day as you haven’t wasted any of it. Lie ins are great at times, but on the most part it’s beneficial to get up earlier as it allows you to get more done in your day – something which is particularly relevant in final year when deadline’s may seem to pile on top of each other.


So that’s it, 5 simple ways placement has helped me transition from second year to final year. Undoubtedly, I learnt a lot more in relation to my course which has helped me throughout my modules so far, but these are some lifestyle habits I gained along the way.


Emma McVeigh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. You can contact her on LinkedIn at or on Twitter @emmamcveigh_



Creating a Dementia Friendly Community


There are currently around 850, 000 people living with Dementia in the UK. Dementia knows no boundaries, no age limits, no race, and no gender.  The youngest person to ever be diagnosed with Dementia in the UK was 6… Yes!  6 years old!

Whilst on my placement with Radius Housing, at the request of John McLean, Radius’ CEO, I teamed up with Care Services Manager Deirdre Carr, to take the lead on making Holywood a Dementia Friendly Community.  It was an absolute pleasure to be asked to work on this project as it is something I am particularly passionate about and it a subject very close to my heart.

Deirdre Carr, Care Services Manager, and I worked alongside Dementia NI and the Alzheimer’s Society to create a timeline plan; our first step was to get all the businesses in Holywood involved and on board – who wouldn’t jump at the chance to be on board with such a worthy local project? After hand delivering 86 letters inviting the businesses to a short information session only 3 businesses turned up!  BUT we didn’t let that deter us, we picked ourselves up, dust ourselves down and continued to work hard.


We were kindly welcomed to the Dementia NI empowerment group where we met with people living with Dementia.  This was vital to kick start our Dementia Friendly Community as we were getting invaluable advice about what people living with Dementia wanted to see in their community.

The first suggestion was two different types of coffee mornings – one was a memory café and the other a careers support coffee morning.  We liaised with the local library and they were very accommodating allowing us to hold the memory Café once a month in their meeting room.   The Yard invited us to use their upstairs area for the careers support coffee morning.  The feedback we received from both coffee mornings was over-whelming, so much so there is now 2 memory cafes a month – still receiving great support!  The second suggestion was a monthly newsletter. Each month we published a newsletter to create awareness; every month the newsletter had a calendar of events, a map of Holywood showing where each event was and information about Dementia.  We also created a social media account and got posters printed to create awareness and tackle the stigma attached to Dementia.

Deirdre and I then went on to complete our Dementia Champion training – this course allows us to train others to become Dementia Friends and be more understanding of those living with Dementia. We started by training staff in-house the first of which was the tele-care staff and then moved into the wider community where we trained businesses within Holywood, the career support group and primary school pupils.  At present we are working to train all of the Ards and North Down Borough Council.

Dementia Awareness week

Having raised awareness and getting ‘Dementia Friendly Holywood’ up and running we decided it was time for an Official Launch.  As if organising an official Launch wasn’t enough work, we decided to run an event every single day that week, and what better week then Dementia Awareness Week  – we held Afternoon Tea, a Memory Walk and a Quiz to name but a few.  The launch event was well support and many local businesses hosted a stall, we had the local councilor attend and the Mayor also came to preside the official launch.




Given the amount of time and effort put in by everyone we were absolutely delighted to learn that we had been nominated for 4 different awards with the Alzheimer’s Society in November this year.

  1. Dementia Community of the Year (Dementia Friendly Holywood, runner up)
  2. Dementia Partnership of the Year (Dementia Friendly Holywood, winner)
  3. Dementia Champion of the Year (Jenny Martin, runner up)
  4. Dementia Young Person of the Year (Jenny Martin, Winner)

Having now completed my placement year with Radius Housing I still continue to help out with activities for Dementia Friendly Holywood and assist with the creation of Dementia Friendly Peninsula and Dementia Friendly Carrick.

Dementia Friendly Holywood Facebook

Dementia Friendly Holywood Twitter 


Jenny Martin is a final year BSc student in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @Jennymartin95 or on Facebook: /jenny.martin.12979431













Placement year. Nothing to be Concerned about!

The Charity sector. Somewhere I didn’t think a degree in Public Relations could take you. My views were drastically changed through my placement year at Concern Worldwide where I saw the range of activities that a PR professional can engage in.

The Community Fundraising team at Concern

Going into my interview (which was a day before I was heading off on a 6 week holiday to Vietnam and Thailand) I wasn’t convinced that this was going to be the job for me. Debating with my parents whether I should actually even go to the interview at all, I (my mum) decided I should go for interview experience. 2 days later, as I was sitting in a bar in Bangkok, I got a phone call from Concern asking me to take the job. Not a bad start to the holiday!

A day after I came back from holidays I took up my new job role. Understandably I was still abit jet-lagged after a 13 hour flight the day before and so was slightly hesitant about the workload, but think everyone realised I wasn’t going to be much use for a couple of days!

Concern was broken up into several different departments. I was based in the Community Fundraising team where we dealt with day-to-day fundraisers or events, Concern groups and worked closely with schools, amongst many other things. After finding out about my experience in the retail sector through working for Next for several years, I was also put in charge of managing one of Concern’s retail shops for a couple of months, which developed a lot of my skills massively.

Since I left school 4 years ago, my interests have always been in events and events management. I was over the moon when my manager told me I would be taking control of the London Marathon for the year. This was a major responsibility for me in the Community Fundraising team.

The London Marathon is one of the main sources of income for the year for the team as each individual needs to raise at least £2000. Concern buys several places every year and to fill them takes a lot of work (as I well and truly found out) due to the nature of different charities competing to fill all their spaces. I took advantage of piggybacking on Concern’s ‘Do Your Thing’ Campaign which was aimed at people going out and doing challenges and donating any money raised to Concern.

Some of the team at the cheering point for our runners in London

After several months of slaving away trying to get the numbers of registrations up we finally reached the target of 12 individuals which was absolutely fantastic. It was vastly rewarding when looking through all of our participants and seeing the range of people who had signed up. Ranging from a school teacher who has completed over 25 marathons, to a successful security firm consultant from Dubai. As I had to keep on top of people’s sponsorships, I was in contact with everyone at least twice a week, and it was rewarding to build relationships with people from such a range of backgrounds. Soaking up all the atmosphere around London really enjoyable and to see our runners come over the line one by one was extremely rewarding. To make things better we raised over £32,000 (and still rising when I was leaving) which was the most the event had raised for Concern in several years.

Other events I was involved in was the Christmas Jumper World Record Attempt in Derry last Christmas. Concern were one of the benefitting charities and myself and a couple of my colleagues helped organise the event on the day. We dropped short, but it was close and was a good insight into event management! A not so happy one was my involvement in the One World Run committee. Again, with Concern being one of the benefiting charities, they required a representative on the board, which I elected to do. Unfortunately, the founding members felt that after a series of unprecedented circumstances, the event would have to come to a close. I was involved with the organisation of the closing ceremony which took place in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour at City Hall with Brian Kingston attending and speaking at the event, which was a pleasure to be a part of.

All in all, my placement opened my eyes to the flexibility of the charity sector in relation to Public Relations and Marketing. Everyone in the company made it an extremely enjoyable year, especially my own team who helped me through my events and campaigns. Was definitely worth the last minute interview!

Daniel McGrenaghan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at the University of Ulster. He can be found on Twitter @danielmcg132

My pursuit of placement

I began looking for somewhere to do my placement year quite late in the year …… actually really late (I don’t recommend this). But for me this was actually a blessing in disguise.

I’m not the most organised person in the world and I’ve always been very laid back and easy going and whilst looking for a placement back in second year I was no different because I left everything as I always do to the very last minute.


While everyone was busy preparing and panicking for their numerous interviews I still hadn’t even brought myself to start my CV. Although I was very keen on doing a placement and I just sort of figured, if it happens its happens and if doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. By March and April many of my class mates were running around like headless chickens in search of placement worrying that all the good ones had gone. What did I do? I took it easy like I always do and concentrated on my upcoming assignment deadlines.


It wasn’t until I finished my final test in mid-May when I finally put pen to paper and finished my CV and by this stage everyone I knew was sorted with placement. Did this worry me? I’m not going to lie maybe a little. But I just thought to myself it will be less competition to deal with when I go to my interviews. I had two holidays to enjoy one in Spain and the other in Dublin before I could even consider actually applying for any placement opportunities.


Once I had my two holidays over I put my head down and started looking, I heard back from two companies and was asked to come in for an interview. It’s safe to say I don’t think they could have gone worse for both interviews I was in and out in less than 10 minutes I should have just kept the car running to be honest.


So, another few months rolled by and at this point it was it was late august and the summer was almost over and being the laid back and easy-going person I am I still had not got my placement sorted. I hadn’t yet reapplied for my student loan and if I had, I would have probably given up only of course I hadn’t, because it’s an absolute nightmare to fill out and without fail I always seem to make a mistake somewhere. I was ready to admit defeat give up when I came across Mencap’s job advertisement. Having volunteered with the special Olympics Ireland for two years, a charity similar to Mencap I decided to give it go and apply. To my absolute surprise and just in the nick of time two weeks before I was due to start my final year at Ulster I got offered the placement at Mencap.


I’ve volunteered for charities before but I had never really considered working for one. I was so over to moon to have an organisation that wanted to take me on and help me develop and enhance my skill I didn’t think twice.


Mencap are a learning disability charity that support thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they choose. They work in partnership with people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland to fight to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.


I had many rewarding and roles within the charity one of which was to assist in gathering and developing content for Mencap NI social media. I was also in of charge of researching and writing up the Mencap NI weekly bulletin. Another role was to assist in developing content for the Mencap NI webpages. This was a job I done on a daily basis and it involved me updating and editing blogs, news stories or publishing press releases.


I really learnt a lot from my manager during my time at Mencap and it was great to part of their team. It was amazing to see first-hand the great work they do and the difference they make to people in local communities.  I had a great year at Mencap loving every single second, I met lots of amazing people (including Rory McIlroy).


Niamh McNally is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @Niamh_McNally or LinkedIn at

Putting the Heart into Placement

Putting the Heart into Placement

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill


It feels like only yesterday that I was a bright eyed, bushy tailed second year student panicking over finding a placement, when suddenly the year has been and gone in a flash.  Looking back on my experience of searching for a placement, I found the whole thing extremely stressful and anxiety inducing, because I had quite frankly no idea what I wanted to do.  Zero, zilch, nada.   Did I want to go into PR or advertising? Or would marketing suit me? Would I enjoy working at that company? Would I be better suited for that role?  Oh crap, I’ve missed the deadline….what if that was the perfect placement for me?!?!

The biggest choice in my mind at the time was whether I wanted to go into advertising, marketing or PR.  The question of what sector I wanted to work in barely even crossed my mind, until I applied and later secured my placement in the charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke. After the most amazing year working as Communications and Marketing Assistant at NICHS, I left with a newfound love for the Third Sector and with high hopes to continue my career in the area when I graduate.

So why should you consider doing a placement in the charity sector?


1. Giving Back

The marketing, advertising and PR industries are often viewed very negatively by the outside world.  Many see them as the art of simply flogging goods and manipulating consumers with nothing other than sales and profit as the end goal. Being a CAM student, I obviously don’t share this view, but I still found it extremely rewarding to feel like I was achieving a ‘greater good’ in my work. I wasn’t just promoting our brand and pushing for profits.  Our marketing and advertising helps increase brand awareness so more people in need can find out about our services, our health information such as heart attack symptoms can reach more people, potentially saving lives, and rather than chasing profits, we encourage fundraising for our cause so we can help more and more people in need. There was no better feeling than hearing feedback from someone on how a Facebook post, billboard or a simple poster or leaflet had alerted them to our services, support groups or fundraising events, helping them change their lives for the better.

2. Never a Dull Moment

Working in NICHS, no two days were ever the same. From road trips to visit service users and listen to their real life stories, to helping film, edit (and briefly taking up a starring role in) our Give Stress a Rest stress management videos, to chasing runners around Stormont in a red dress with a DSLR in the wintery depths of February…every day was full of drama, excitement and lots of laughs.

The NICHS Red Dress Run at Stormont!  (I couldn’t feel my toes all day)

3. Creativity Needed!

In a charity, there’s a certain level of duty to the public who work so hard to raise funds for us.  These hard earned funds must be used as effectively as possible, and in order to keep being able to help those in need, constantly inspiring more and more people and organisations to fundraise is essential.  Convincing people to part with their time and money in aid of your cause isn’t always easy, but that’s where the fun starts.  The marketing and fundraising department have to get seriously creative!  The fundraising team and my manager, Gillian, at NICHS never ceased to amaze me with their brilliant ideas to get our messages out and to get people involved, and it was so much fun working with them all to help bring the ideas to life, while seeing some of my own be put into action too.

It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it

4. Amazing People

From my very first day in NICHS HQ, I was practically shouting from the rooftops to anyone who would listen about how lovely and nice everybody in the office is, and I honestly worry that I might never work with a better bunch of people again!  The second-floor gang, comprised of the Comms department and the ‘Health Promotion Angels’, was like a little family and there was never, ever a dull moment.  As well as my colleagues and co-workers, meeting service users and real life survivors was so inspiring.  From visiting survivors and hearing their stories to going along to the young stroke group on Fridays to play Wii sports, it was always so fantastic to see people refuse to let anything that had happened to them hold them back, and how NICHS had helped them get there.

Balmoral Show? Completed it mate.

So in your search for placement, definitely don’t disregard the charity sector – I had the most amazing year on placement, and so my final piece of advice to any second years is simply to enjoy every minute.  I would do mine all over again in a heartbeat!

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at and Twitter @unamickq

The Tale of Two Placements

While studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University, it felt like most of second year at university was consumed with the stress of securing a placement year to commence in the summer.  It’s one of the first things that gets mentioned on the induction day of second year, filling you with both fear and anticipation…and of course you start to day dream of the exciting and new world that lies outside the lecture theatres and in the real-life world of the marketing communication industry.

I tried to be selective when applying for jobs as I wanted to ensure that I found a company that would be a good fit for me and would allow me to gain the knowledge and insight I wanted to achieve from my placement year.  After a few rejections I finally saw a job advert that seemed like the perfect fit looking for a media assistant at ASG & Partners on the Holywood Road in Belfast.  Upon receiving a phone call inviting me to interview for the job I discovered that there was another job role sandwiched onto the media assistant role – marketing assistant for one of their partner companies, Webrecruit Ireland.  All the stress of trying to find one placement, and then all of a sudden here I was confronted with the possibility to work two back-to-back, it was definitely an enticing offer and I was overjoyed to hear I’d been successful in landing the job.

So towards the end of June 2016 I headed off the Holywood Road unsure of what lay ahead but excited to begin my two placements.  What was to follow was a year of a lot of learning, a lot challenges and a lot of fond memories.

From the one desk I worked both jobs and from the one email inbox managed both job enquiries – called Jonny in one and Jonathan in the other so at times it did feel like I had a slight split-personality disorder.  My media days were Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and marketing on the other two.  Of course it was impossible to switch off from either and I would constantly find myself trying to discreetly answer a call so that I wouldn’t annoy one boss over the other.  The way my time was negotiated and swapped around did at times feel like I was stuck in the middle of two divorced parents.

The media industry in Northern Ireland is an exciting and fast paced environment that seems to be ever-evolving.  I got to work on some amazing campaigns for the likes of Remus Uomo, Belfast International Arts Festival and Forestside Shopping Centre…and never a dull day in the office, even ended up as a last minute model in one of the campaigns for Forestside.

There is also a great social side to Belfast’s advertising world – and getting to be a part of PANI was amazing. It gave me the opportunity to network and form relationships with local suppliers. When I arrived at ASG, I was thrown in the deep-end and taken to my first event on day four of my placement, but everyone was so welcoming and it was great to get to know familiar faces over the year.

Webrecruit Ireland was a small team 5 and I worked as a marketing assistant under the direct leadership of the managing director.  What wasn’t made aware to me at the time of interviewing was that I was the only member of the marketing team and while a little daunting at first to learn that the companies marketing activities fell almost solely on my shoulders there was no time to panic.  It was my job to plan the social media calendar, email marketing and keep the website up-to-date among other ad-hoc duties – thank goodness for Google because it definitely helped me out of a few binds during the year.

While yes, my placement year did have its challenges, some of which I definitely wasn’t expecting – I wouldn’t change anything about the year.  It gave me a taste of two very different sides of the marketing communications industry and better prepared me for heading in to final year and beyond that into graduate employment.

For anyone thinking of skipping the opportunity to do a placement year I would definitely urge you to reconsider because the experience gained is too good an opportunity to turn down.


Jonny Allen is a final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University.  You can find him on LinkedIn here –


Placement Goals at Tourism NI

Placement Goals at Tourism NI

When in second year, you are faced with the opportunity to go into the world of work, for an entire year, via work placement.  Advice from a current final year is, TAKE IT!  It was honestly one of the best years of my life and I cannot commend Tourism NI enough for the way they looked after me.

I applied quite late, in comparison to my classmates, but I still got there!  Not that I am endorsing applying late, but just a note to say, don’t panic if you’re not the first to get sorted!

I used the UU careers portal to find available placements – a good tip would be to tick more than one box when it asks you what area of work you are interested in.  I ticked at least eight, so I wouldn’t limit myself and miss out on any possibilities!

Tourism NI advertised for an Industry Development Events Assistant, which included a pretty salary and I thought, why not?  We didn’t focus on event planning modules in my degree, but it is a very useful skill to have when it comes to PR, therefore, when applying for your own placements, just remember that you don’t have to go for something that relates 100% to your degree – there is a level of flexibility, so be creative!

Unlike some of my classmates, I had a pretty straightforward interview, don’t get me wrong, no interview is easy, but it didn’t involve any psychometric tests, or phone interviews, just one competency-based interview.  I’m always a stress head at interviews, but with a couple of (dozen) herbal calming pills and reems of spider diagram notes.  I must have pulled it out of the bag, as I was offered the job a few hours later!

Tourism NI, by far, excelled my expectations.  They were incredibly welcoming, friendly and supportive of my placement journey.  My team was honestly the BEST team in the organisation, apologies to anyone in TNI reading this, but, #sorrynotsorry.

When you’re trying to capture a candid photo of your team, but you get a wonky photo of a Mexican wave.

My job was based in the public sector, which taught me a lot about politics, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I had very little to knowledge prior to my role.

I assisted my line manager in various events across NI, which were all delivered with the purpose of developing the industry – hence the name, ‘industry development’, it took a while for the penny to drop for me.  The role involved a multitude of skills and qualities, some of which I already had and others I got the chance to develop throughout my placement journey.  I have summarised the key skills and qualities below, as I believe they apply to any placement, or graduate job.  So hopefully, they will help you when applying!

  1. Be organised; stay organised; don’t not be organised

I put this as number one, because it is the key to success!  It wasn’t my strongest skill, when I first started, but, it is now!  I quickly learned that, in order to stay on top of things, I had to stay organised, so I bought a planner and recorded all impromptu requests, phone calls, tasks and messages, so I could create a ‘to do’ list every day.

  1. Be creative

I find it hard to believe that everyone at the top of the employment ladder, coloured within the lines and never thought outside of the box.  I always have been creative and during my placement, I wasn’t afraid to suggest ideas and new ways of doing things.

  1. Be yourself 

On the first day it’s hard to show your true self, because of the jelly-like feeling caused by immense nerves shooting through your body – or, maybe it’s just me!  Over the first few weeks, my personality started to shine through and I connected with so many employees, business partners and most importantly, my line manager.  I’m normally quite a bubbly and talkative person, however, I cannot do public speaking to save my life!  My placement really helped me come out of my shell.  I even made a guest appearance as Mr.Claus – bare in mind, this was very last minute, involved an impromptu costume and was accompanied by a deep Australian accent, I think! ( I tried my best! )  But I did it!

Out of all the events we delivered over my year’s placement – I lost count after the first 2 months, my favourite was the NI Tourism Awards, in Enniskillen Castle.  It was challenging, as we had high profile guests attending, therefore, even sending out the invitations was stressful!  But it was a huge success and very enjoyable.


Overall, I have to describe my time at Tourism Northern Ireland as ‘Placement Goals’, I couldn’t of had a better year if I tried; despite the long hours and stressful moments I wouldn’t change it for the world! If your looking for an organisation to gain some first hand experience in the public sector then check them out! I’ve included a link to their website in case your tempted to look at job vacancies

Finally, I just wanted to say that whatever job you end up in just remember to be yourself and have fun!

Kimberley O’Hare is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @Kimberley_Ohare and LinkedIn